The iHome iDM12 Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker System for iPad/iPhone/iPod is iHome’s entry into the every growing portable/battery powered Bluetooth speaker market. Like the Monster iClarityHD speakers I reviewed in January, the iMD12 aims to give you mobile sound without the headphones. Unlike the iClarityHD, the iDM12 doesn’t bother with a microphone – it’s not a substitute hands-free system, it’s just a speaker. The overall package is a bit more portable thanks to the combination speaker cover/iPad base – when snapped on the front you’re left with a 7″ cylinder that’s about 2 1/4″ wide – easy enough to toss into a gear bag or luggage.
Inside the Box
The iDM12 package includes a Bluetooth connect guide (with no mention of the wired connection, or use of the stand – but it’s obvious enough) – the speaker & base/cover, and the USB + 3.5″ headphone plug to micro-usb cable. You’ll want to hang onto this cable, as it’s used to both charge the iDM12 and to route wired audio to it, should you want to forgo Bluetooth. In theory you can use any micro-usb cable to charge the IDM12, and the micro-usb/stereo connection is also standard – but I just used the supplied cable in my testing.
The top of the iDM12 has the interesting controls:
Press and hold power to power it on. You’ll see a green LED in the top center of the speaker grill when it’s on. Press power again to turn it off. The -/+ keys do what you’d expect with the volume, while the pause/play/pairing button does the pause/play function on a short press. Press and hold to enter into pairing mode.
The back of the iDM21 has the micro-usb port and the Bluetooth/aux switch, along with the flip-out stand to hold the speakers up when in use.
Flipping to aux-in turns off the Bluetooth radio in the iDM12, probably increasing its battery life. The internal battery, at 1800mAH, is rated at 4.5 hours – in my actual use it lasted 4 when playing music via Bluetooth.
The split USB cable gives you about 6 inches to work with, if you’re going to try connecting both the audio and the USB plugs into a laptop or other source. That’s doable on a Macbook Pro, for example, as shown below:
The cover/base is a notched bit of plastic with two feet that swivel out – without those feet it’s not stable with an iPad resting in it!
The feet rotate and stay (snugly) under the base when not in use, and the base just magnetically snaps onto the front of the iDM12 when you’re not using it. If only there was somewhere to stash that cable…
I borrowed a handy iPad (first gen, but the slot should work the same for the slightly thinner iPad 2) to grab some action photos, and indeed the base does a fine job of securely holding an iPad on a flat surface:
You’ll want to put the speaker off to the side though, unless you like peering over it, while looking at its reflection in the glass of the iPad:
Paring was automatic, as expected, with iOS devices, iMacs, Linux boxes, and Windows machines. The iDM12 will re-connect to the last device that connected to it – if you’re moving it between several devices, you’d just need to select it in that device’s list of known Bluetooth speakers.
Range was also as expected – this is a 30′ device, and it was solid for me at the limits of that range.
According to the iHome site, the iDM12s include 2 active and 1 passive radiator (that’s a left and right speaker, and a bass-reflex passive “woofer” for some low end help.)
I found the iDM12 to have an audible amplifier hum when connected, but when nothing was playing, even at low/mid volume settings, with either Bluetooth or the wired connection. The hum wasn’t audible during playback. Bass reproduction was as good as you could hope in a package this size, which is to say not very. There’s no doubt these little speakers can put out a decent volume of sound – just don’t expect to host your next rave with them. When compared to the Boston Acoustics BA635 speakers on my work machine, I can clearly hear the narrow range, lack of bass, and even a bit of distortion at the same volume. Even with that, the little iDM12s did a admirable job of matching that volume well past the point where I would normally listen to audio material.
The iDM12 is a very portable, versatile battery powered Bluetooth/wired speaker system. The integrated iPad base/cover is a nice touch – useful even if you’re not primarily using it for an iPad. The sound quality is about where I’d expect at this price, which is a bit higher than the very low end speaker systems, but under the high end ones.